Woods in Attack Mode Early at Carnoustie - COPIED


CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- Between shots, Tiger Woods looked as though he was on his way to pop a casserole in the oven. When he took off his oversized gloves, he warmed right up to chilly Carnoustie.
Woods got off to a strong start Thursday in his quest for a third straight British Open title, shooting a 3-under 33 before the turn to put himself near the top of the leaderboard on a dreary morning along the North Sea.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods gets in and out of trouble Thursday at Carnoustie. (Getty Images)
Ireland's Paul McGinley birdied four of the first seven holes to claim the early lead, while 2005 U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell of New Zealand and South Korea's K.J. Choi, who's won twice on the PGA TOUR this year, were in contention.
Choi shot a 2-under 69, even with a pair of bogeys coming down the brutal finishing stretch. Campbell matched Woods with a 33 on the front side and held at 3 under with only the 18th hole to play.
Fredrik Andersson Hed of Sweden was at 3 under while still working through the front side, his score bolstered by an eagle at No. 6.
Woods, seeking his fourth Open championship overall and 13th major title, birdied No. 3 to get into the red, then made an eagle at the par-5 sixth. He waved his putter to the cheering gallery after the ball dipped into the cup on the 578-yard hole known as Hogan's Alley.
Choi, coming off wins at the Memorial and AT&T National, birdied four of the first six holes, his only slip-up on the outgoing stretch coming at the seventh when he missed a sharp-breaking putt from about 3 feet to save par.
McGinley also took advantage of conditions that looked ugly but were primed for going low.
Morning showers softened up the greens. The breeze whipping in off the North Sea wasn't too imposing. And the knee-high rough that made things so tough in 1999 -- the last time a British Open was held at 'Car-Nasty' -- was shaved down this time around.
The only thing to complain about was the temperature, struggling to break 50 degrees in what passes for summer in Scotland.
As he stepped up to the first tee, John Rollins blew into his hand, trying to keep it warm. Then, as he sized up his second shot, he let out a big exhale. Yep, he could see his breath.
Of course, after the searing heat of Royal St. George's in 2003 and the sun-baked fairways of Royal Liverpool a year ago, this was more like a British Open. Butch Harmon watched the early starters tee off from the second-floor window of his hotel room.
'It's the skybox,' the coaching guru quipped.
Woods, his new daughter back home in Florida, was trying to become the first golfer in more than a half-century to pull off an Open three-peat. Peter Thomson claimed the claret jug from 1954-56, and only three others have won three straight years in a championship that dates to 1860.
Thomson, who won five times overall and was runner-up on three other occasions, expects Woods to be posing with the trophy come Sunday.
'He has a chance to win eight in a row,' said the revered Aussie, now a member of the Royal & Ancient. 'If I could do it, surely he could.'
No matter who wins this time, there's unlikely to be an Open finish like the last one at this hallowed patch of coastline.
Jan Van de Velde went to the final hole in 1999 with a three-stroke lead, needing a mere double-bogey to claim the title for France. Instead, he banged the tee shot far right of the fairway, hit the next shot off a grandstand and wound up in the Barry Burn, which led him to shed his socks and shoes, roll up his pant legs and delve into the frigid creek for a possible shot.
He eventually decided to take a penalty drop, but that scene remains an enduring legacy from the last Open at Carnoustie -- especially when Van de Velde took a triple-bogey 7 and lost to Paul Lawrie in a playoff.
Van de Velde didn't qualify for this year's Open, his career on hold as he deals with a mysterious illness. He underwent tests just this week in hopes of discovering the cause of his debilitating pain.
Lawrie, a native son from right up the road in Aberdeen, is the last European to win a major. The eight-year winless drought has stirred up no shortage of theories why the continent that dominates the U.S. in Ryder Cup doesn't fare as well individually.
'Now is the time,' said Colin Montgomerie, who's never won a major in his long, illustrious career. 'I think one of us should come forward. I think we are good enough to come forward now and win.'
Paired with Woods, Lawrie wasn't given much chance of a repeat at the scene of his greatest triumph. One prominent British bookie put the odds at 200-to-1.
Still, Lawrie hopes more people will come to appreciate his remarkable triumph in '99, when he overcame a 10-shot deficit on the final day by shooting a 4-under 67 on a course where the best cumulative score was 6 over.
It will take a much better score than that to win this time.
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